European Union hurt as USA flexes sanctions muscles

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Major exporters have warned of a "chilling" knock-on effect on British business from Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

European airplane maker Airbus was among the early beneficiaries and seized the opportunity to strike a 22.8 billion euros (US$25 billion) deal for 118 new aircraft to Iran in late January 2016, along with involvement in other operational and support activities locally.

Airbus is particularly more exposed on widebody jets, for which sluggish global demand has forced it to revise down part of its production plans; Iran has ordered 53 widebody jets from Airbus and 30 from Boeing.

Boeing also had announced a contract in April 2017 to sell Iran Aseman Airlines 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for $3 billion, with purchase rights for another 30 aircraft.

Shares of Boeing closed down $2.06, or 0.6 percent, at $338.37 on the New York Stock Exchange after Trump's announcement.

The Iranian orders represent a small percentage of the massive aircraft backlogs of both manufacturers.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has said Iran has not violated provisions of the accord.

Airbus jets are mainly made in Europe but parts are imported from the United States, requiring its agreement for sales. The deals depend on USA licences because of the use of American parts in commercial aircraft.

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"Today, for Total, is a historic day, the day we come back to Iran", Patrick Pouyanne, Total's CEO, said at a signing ceremony in Tehran last July.

He said there might be some exclusions, but he did not elaborate.

The Iran nuclear deal is a pact between major global powers including China, the U.K., France, Germany, and Russian Federation, who agree that harsh economic sanctions on Iran will be lifted in return for the cessation of the country's nuclear program. A Chinese oil company also has a deal to develop the country's massive South Pars offshore natural gas field.

"U.S. Iran sanctions are hardly hitting any U.S. companies, but aim primarily at European ones", Carl Bildt, the former leader of Sweden who is now co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet.

Mnuchin said USA officials have had discussions with other countries about increasing production to offset the loss of oil from Iran. "The objective is to put and maintain maximum sanctions on Iran; that is the objective here".

"This will take some time", he said.

"It is unclear whether the potential use of non-USD denominated finance lines will offer much protection to European entities, and thus such a move could be largely symbolic in nature".

Underscoring the tension in the region, the Israeli military went on high alert on Tuesday for a possible flare-up with neighboring Syria, which is allied to Iran.

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